The No. 17 Ole Miss Rebels (3-1) continue their opening homestand as they welcome in the Xavier Musketeers (2-1) of the Big East. Mike Bianco’s club escaped an upset bid on Wednesday, avoiding a RPI bomb at the hands of the Alcorn State Braves, and now turn their attention to the X-Men.
Xavier kicked off the 2020 season in the Bluff City, back-ending a series against the Memphis Tigers. Last year, the ‘teers were 12-4 in conference play but just 27-31 overall. But, Billy O’Conner’s club does boast two of the more talented players in the Big East in centerfielder Allbry Major and Saturday starter Nick Zwack.
Ole Miss should be able to lean on their starting pitching this weekend as the Musketeers come in hitting just .202 as a team after the first weekend. That, coupled with a talented lineup that has both experience and young flare should pose a challenge for the X-Men and give the Rebels a chance to win their second series on the young season.
3 things to look for this weekend
What will Derek Diamond do for an encore?
The California Kid was electric in his debut last weekend against Louisville. Sure it was a no-decision and he threw 5.2 innings with three earned runs allowed, but the stuff was there in spades. Diamond, a key member of Ole Miss’ top-five signing class, has a lot of expectations and he was as advertised last weekend.
The 6’2, 200-pounder displayed a ton of swagger and natural charisma on the bump. He didn’t look like a freshman at all when going up against then-No. 1 Louisville and he displayed ample amounts of ability of being a starter on the weekend. He was sitting comfortably in the low-90’s with his fastball and his slider was working quite well, hovering anywhere from 80-84 MPH.
Will we see more Jerrion Ealy?
The football star started on opening day amid big-time cheers from the Swayze Field crowd. Even though the former top-30 prospect hasn’t recorded his first official hit, his at-bats have been impressively mature for a true freshman. In five at-bats, he has worked three walks and two of those against Alcorn State were full count at-bats.
I am of the opinion that Ealy needs as many reps as possible to continue to improve at the plate and to get comfortable hitting against elite pitching. As a high schooler, Jackson Prep didn’t play against elite pitching and Ealy was unable to do much travel ball due to playing football. Therefore, he is a bit behind since he was playing football for Ole Miss all fall and wasn’t able to participate in intrasquads in Oxford.
But, Jerrion should be able to acclimate to the speed of the game with repetitions and fans should be excited to see how he progresses.
Xavier has some talent.
We already mentioned Major and Zwack, but the Musketeers will also trot out Lane Flamm (0-1, 3.00 ERA) on Friday night, the top 2021 prospect in the Big East, and infielders Kody Darcy and Luke Franzoni. Darcy (.222, 2 2B) and Franzoni (.300, HR, 4 RBI) should hit in the middle of the lineup for Xavier and will certainly test Doug Nikhazy, Gunnar Hoglund, and Diamond.
Flamm is another name to know at the plate, too. The Friday starter leads the ‘teers in slugging (.714) and OPS (1.000) and is second on the team in batting average (.286) and total bases. He is a feisty two-way player that will be someone to know this weekend as the Rebs try to remain undefeated in 2020 series.
How to watch
Friday: 4:00pm CST
Saturday: 1:30pm CST
Sunday: 12:00pm CST